Luxuriating in an outdoor hot tub as snow falls on the landscape is a lovely winter dream, but it has its practical side too. It’s good for our health as hot tub soaks are known to relieve pain, calm itchy skin and reduce stress. Using your hot tub (or spa – the terms are interchangeable) year round is a great way to keep connected to the outdoors. If you’ve kept up with your hot tub’s maintenance for winter usage, here are a few tips to keep you healthy and safe while using your spa.
Winter hot tubs
Some hot tubs are winter-ready. They are designed with non-metal materials, fewer feet of plumbing, good insulation for cold temps and are installed with a wind barrier or in partial shelter. Traditional hot tubs, made of wood or metal and without much insulation, can also be used in the cold months, but they won’t be as energy efficient and will require more careful use. The savings gained from adding insulation to a non-winterized hot tub may be worth it in the long run, as the tub will heat more quickly and retain that heat for a longer time.
Watch the water temperature
The prospect of stripping down in the cold, and then later getting out of the hot water back into the frigid doesn’t seem particularly attractive to the uninitiated, but a nice soak in cold weather can be comfortable and refreshing. The right water temperature will warm your body quickly when you enter the spa, and that heat will keep you warm enough to get back into the house comfortably.
Water temperatures for hot tubs range from about a cool 98 to about 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Personal preference can vary. Most homeowners adjust water temperatures for the season, ticking up the thermostat in the wintertime. It’s important to keep the temp below 104° F, according to safety experts at the US Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CSPC). The CPSC advises that 100°F is considered safe for any healthy adult, and is a good temperature to use when it is very chilly outside. Use a pool thermometer to monitor it, because the combination of your exposed head and shoulders and submerged body will make judging the temperature yourself very difficult. In the winter especially, we get hotter than we realize when we’re soaking in an outdoor spa.
Be prepared for a quick and dry exit
Have a place nearby where the towels and robes will stay dry. Within arm’s reach is good only if the garments won’t get splashed. The key is to keep them from getting wet or too cold. Slippers are a must unless you want frozen toes on your walk back to the house. If the ground is icy, bring well-treaded boots. A fluffy bathrobe and snow boots is the look for seasoned hot tub enthusiasts. No-one wants to slip on the ice while being scantily clad. Take precautions to make sure you can get back to the house safely and warmly. Also, like with swimming, don’t soak alone.
Don’t drink and dunk and other warnings
The CSPC warns against excessive drinking while using a hot tub. The hot water further relaxes the muscles which could cause dangerous levels of drowsiness. If unconscious with the help of alcohol, a person could slip under the surface and drown. This same caution should be heeded by anyone who takes medication that induces drowsiness, like tranquilizers, anti-histamines, and anti-coagulants.
Drink fresh water while soaking. Soak up to 15 minutes at a time. If anyone experiences dizziness, nausea or drowsiness, they should exit the spa immediately and return indoors.
Early pregnancy can be at risk when exposed to prolonged high water temperatures. Water above 102°F can cause damage to the fetus in the first trimester. 100°F for a short soak should be safe, but pregnant women should consult their physician before using a hot tub.
Hot tub use is not recommended for children. Children’s bodies are not as skilled at regulating body temperature as adult bodies. The added heat can cause stress to their organs. Practice extreme caution when allowing children in the hot tub. Keep the temperature at 95°F or below and limit their time in the tub to less than 15 minutes. Only children who are tall enough to stand in the hot tub with their head and shoulders above the surface should be permitted. Infants and toddlers are not permitted in any hot tub, as their bodies cannot regulate temperature well and they will overheat.
Healthy adults should encounter no problems with hot tub soaks, but certain health concerns may preclude others. If you experience heart disease, blood pressure problems, circulation issues or diabetes, ask your physician before using a spa. The physician will let you know what temperatures and length of time is safe for you.
Keep up the maintenance
Just like a pool’s water, the spa’s water needs to be maintained well. Disinfect the water regularly. When outside temperatures dip below freezing, make sure to handle any metal pieces of the hot tub with care. Your bare skin may stick to the metal when it is very cold. Remove any ice and snow using gloves. Do not try to remove the hot tub cover without clearing it of snow first, or you may risk damage to the spa. Also, make sure any snow-laden eaves or drifts do not fall into the hot tub, as it will lower the temperature of the water and disrupt its chemical balance.
Enjoy the outdoors
A hot tub is a great way to get outside when the weather is cold. Cold weather and a steaming hot tub make for a therapeutic combination that many homeowners swear by. Pamper yourself throughout the cold season with regular soaks and you’ll feel refreshed and connected to nature all year long.